AS RWANDANS revel in the euphoria of commemorating 25 years of liberation, never should the seemingly insurmountable turbulences encountered on the way to this place escape their minds.
The state of this nation today described as a dramatic turnaround?
When one deeply ponders it, “amazing” is an understatement.
How did it come to be that Rwandans together can today hold their heads high? Stop hanging their heads in shame, afraid to reveal their despised identity?
Verily, it’s been a really long, hazardous and costly liberation sail.
The few snapshots of what I’ve heard about the evolution of this turnaround give me the sense that practically every attempt to negotiate or force the liberation process was doomed to fail.
From the beginning, what was sought was simple reintegration into the equality of all citizens by a section of those denied their identity in the unrests of 1959. A time of their massacre, arson, banishment and other marginalisation forms set off by colonial forces and carried on by post-independence governments through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.
A 1960s cry to the UN for intervention went unanswered – true to UN’s form. Also, a then-attempt at armed struggle proved directionless and all but fatal.
So, it was without hope that Rwandans in exile dabbled in an organisation called Rwandese Welfare Foundation (RWF) that morphed into the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU). Still, that elite morph could not lift the hopes of those exiled souls.
Meanwhile, an idea of true liberation for all Rwandans, within Rwanda and without, had been germinating in two young minds from the 1960s.
By the 1980s, the young minds had attained maturity and muscle.
With that muscle after they and others had acquired military training, RANU was transformed into today’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi. Inkotanyi with an RPA wing in case the intransigent Rwandan government needed a ‘hard’ nudge to bend it favourably towards a dialogue on equal rights for all citizens. It’s then that hopes rose, though still with apprehension.
Not to dampen spirits reliving the tragedy of October 1990, let’s look at one mind. A tragedy, nonetheless, that could’ve put paid to ever seeing today’s Rwanda hadn’t that one mind’s cool-headed, strategic planning come at the rescue soon enough.
It cannot be denied, though, that much before and elsewhere, sheer luck may’ve been the redeemer!
Like once on February 6, 1981.
When that mind was scaling a wall to escape in a botched attack on Kabamba Barracks, a bullet missed him and ‘only’ grazed his thumb.
“Only” said in all humility, knowing how painful it was. But we validate the audacity with the fact of not wanting to imagine where this country would be if, God above and Mother Nature forbid, the incident had turned out otherwise.
A later incident is also recounted of how that country’s fighting rebel organisation would’ve been wrecked and its elements wiped out, if it hadn’t been for that mind.
But for his meticulous, analytical intelli- gence, the fighting guerrillas wouldn’t have been the wiser on one among them planning a mutiny. At that fledgling phase, it’d have spelt their end.
There were more scary moments. Like the one recounted by a Col Monde.
That country’s army had planned a once-for-all assault on the guerrillas intended to make them history. One powerful artillery weapon was the silver bullet that’d lead to this accomplishment.
After thorough reconnaissance trips, against all informed opinion our mind dived into the foxhole and wrestled the controls from the soldier minding them there.
With that, the spine of the national army was broken. These contributions were a vital addition to chances of how the guerrillas waltzed to victory. However, as the Waswahili say, asante ya punda ni mateke (the gratitude of a donkey is a kick)! But then again, who cared for anybody’s acknowledgement?
Our mind had received the necessary baptism of fire, anyway, and together with others managed to create a battle-hardened nucleus. Not before, however, that baptism of fire was put to the most extreme of tests. Because all the above was child’s play in the face of what awaited them.
Even then, from the 1990 tragedy, that mind, Commander Paul Kagame and his comrades mutated from a disorganised, self-exposed and suicidal rag tag group of fighters and into a formidable liberation apparition that now you saw, now you didn’t. It’s thus that they managed to grow in strength and number, against unfathomably impossible odds.
And it’s then that an imagined improbability became an inevitable possibility, to which no amount of telling, however detailed, can do justice.
So, Kagitumba yafashwe, Ruhengeri yafashwe....Byumba, Kibungo, Gitarama, Butare, Gikongoro (later, curse to Zone Turquoise!), Cyangugu (later), Kibuye (later), Gisenyi (later), and Kigali oh, Inkotanyi! To quote a song exalting the capture of the different towns from genocidal hands.
An armed struggle that saw probably one of the swiftest triumphs in recent liberation history. Yet again, where “amazing” becomes truly an understatement. That mind, as ace military strategist, now metamorphosed into a statesman of world acclaim, as President Paul Kagame.
Whence, today Rwanda awes as a dramatic turnaround. But even then, a luta continua! Indeed, it’s been a hard ride of crest upon crest of risky tsunamic waves.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.